If you enjoy the mechanics of design and you want to help others, a program
in prosthetics and orthotics could be for you.
There are two levels within the profession -- practitioner or clinician
and technician. The practitioner or clinician is constantly involved with
patient care. The technician assists in the creation of the prosthetic or
orthotic devices and only occasionally sees the patient.
Clinician programs range from four-year degree programs to 16-month
programs for people who already hold a degree in a related field such
as nursing or kinesiology.
At the University of Washington, students must undergo a two-year preparatory
phase before going on to the two-year bachelor of science degree program.
The preparatory phase ensures that all prerequisites are met and students
gain the basic know-how to succeed in the bachelor program.
Technician programs are for those who are more interested in the craft
and design aspect of prosthetics and orthotics. They are generally one
or two years long and end in an associate of science degree, a certificate
or diploma. Generally, you can enroll in these programs immediately after
graduating high school.
"Basically all you need is a high school diploma, or GED," says Gail McClellan.
She coordinates the two-year technician program at Spokane Falls Community
However, McClellan warns that students must write a difficult placement
test before acceptance. The earlier you apply, the better your chances.
"The day we receive [the application] is the day you go on the list," she
For any prosthetics or orthotics program, you must be able to manipulate
20 to 25 pounds for long periods of time and be comfortable around large power
tools and equipment.
Dan Blocka, coordinator of both the clinician and technician programs at
a community college, says the major skill his school looks for in prospective
students is communication, particularly for those seeking a career
as a clinician. "You can have all the technical skills in the world, but if
you can't relate to people, you're going nowhere."
High school students can prepare by taking as many biology, chemistry,
physics, psychology, computer science, advanced mathematics, human anatomy
and human physiology classes as they can.
Art is of particular importance for the prosthetics aspect of the technician,
says McClellan. "You will be fabricating a limb for somebody -- they want
it to be as lifelike and natural as possible."
You can also increase your chances of acceptance by volunteering at rehabilitation
centers or private facilities.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Clinical
Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics
Find out what to look for a program
Orthotics and Prosthetics Information
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